"...it seems like just now people are starting to take things seriously"
This story has been donated to the Atlanta History Center’s Corona Collective.
Despite being 24 years old, I am at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
At the beginning of 2019, I was diagnosed with liver disease. I’ve always been very open about this with friends, family, and even on social media. I want to be able to talk openly about health in hopes it helps someone else, or they can relate to what I have to say. Because of my liver disease, I am technically immunocompromised; my immune system is way below full strength.
But when COVID-19 first crept into our collective consciousnesses, it felt like no one around me seemed to have opened their eyes or ears. “It’s just the flu,” they would tell me. These were people who had received higher education, some of whom even work in local hospitals. They were still going out to shop with their friends, going on vacations, sometimes even going out to dinner. I, however, locked myself in my home and immediately took precautions to stay quarantined.
This caused a little bit of tension in my life, as I saw friends and family members not taking the pandemic as seriously as I was. I was even made fun of in the beginning, as they didn’t believe it was a big deal. I have family members who are also at-risk. Some of them have been staying quarantined, while others have yet to take any precautions. Soon, my grandparents actually got tested for COVID-19 after exposure to others who had it. I remember feeling so terrified that they would catch it, as they may not have survived. However, their results came back negative and it was such a relief to all of us, even those who hadn’t been taking it quite so seriously.
COVID-19 is affecting more than just older people like many of us originally thought. Not only that, but it can be carried from person to person when they don’t even know they have it. We’ve now seen people of all ages pass away from this pandemic, and it seems like just now people are starting to take things seriously.
I live about 30 minutes outside of Atlanta, GA in Cherokee County. Growing up in suburban Georgia, I’ve learned that politically we do lean conservatively and thus sometimes we can be more reluctant to take things seriously. It wasn’t until early April that our governor Brian Kemp finally put the state on a Stay-at-Home order, saying he wasn’t aware of the fact that the virus could spread through people who do not show any symptoms. I am delighted that the state is finally catching up, however, I’ve known how the virus spreads since early January of this year. People of all ages are passing away from this pandemic, shouldn’t we be taking it seriously?
“It’s just the flu,”they would tell me. These were people who had received higher education, some of whom even work in local hospitals. They were still going out to shop with their friends, going on vacations, sometimes even going out to dinner.
Why, does it seem like younger generations are being more proactive? I think it’s because, even if we survive, we don’t want to be carriers of the virus. We don’t want our parents and grandparents to get sick. Most of us haven’t been through something quite so globally impactful at all or in a very long time. When 9/11 happened, I was only 5 years old and remember it through a very young lens. So now I’m logging onto social media and seeing constant news updates of young people, infants, middle-aged people, and elderly who are passing from this virus. How can you not at least be concerned?
To their credit, most of the people in my life are now starting to take it more seriously. With the “lockdown” happening in Georgia now, people are seeing that it really is impacting us. Georgia is the fourth highest state in the country with people who have the virus, with the United States now being the number one nation in the world with the most cases. These statistics are serious, as there have been more deaths now from this pandemic than 9/11. When people say “it’s just the flu” or “it’ll pass” what does that really mean? Does it come from a place of privilege to be able to say those things? While I believe the people in my life who work in the medical field, I also think that it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has declared a partial reopening of non-essential businesses starting on April 27. The Stay-at-Home order has expired as April came to a merciful end. I know that the same people who were not taking isolation that seriously will be going back out to these businesses, as I’ve seen them continue business-as-usual while Georgia has had a stay-at-home order. Despite starting to understand the seriousness of the pandemic, I don’t think they will continue taking precautions as businesses reopen. The governor told them it is okay, so that is what they’ll believe. I think this partial re-opening is extremely dangerous as Georgia is one of the top 5 states with Coronavirus death rates.
I know many people have been anxious for the state to open back up. However, after Kemp’s decision, I’ve also seen lots of people I know express fear for the state. A friend of mine is a manager at a gym, and she doesn’t want to come into contact with people’s sweat or other germs and further expose herself. However, under Kemp’s ruling, her business will now be open. I will be continuing to take precautions by staying isolated in quarantine, despite Kemp’s recent decision.
As a young person, I’m sure it’s no secret that we talk about mental health much more than previous generations. When this whole pandemic started and everyone across the country ran into grocery stores to stock up on milk and toilet paper, I could feel the world’s anxiety. It’s heavy, looming over all of us every day. I see posts all day about how anxious and worried people feel about the uncertainty of the world. Even those that are not too worried about the virus itself, seem to be anxious over the state of the economy. There are hundreds of reasons to be anxious, worried, stressed, or nervous right now. For someone who is not only immunocompromised but also suffers from anxiety, it can be difficult to even function.
It almost feels like we all collectively have the weight of the world on our shoulders. Every day, I feel constant anxiety in my chest, which is sometimes hard to pinpoint. I’m uncertain as to what the future will look like. Will I have a job? Will my family be okay? Will I be okay? How many people will die from this virus before it’s over? Will it ever be over? It seems like there are a million unanswered questions, and that’s enough to make anyone at least a little bit anxious. Uncertainty is a huge anxiety trigger for many people, including myself.
So, what can we do to combat this looming anxious feeling? There’s a lot of different techniques to get a grip on anxiety. My favorites include journaling, meditation, and deep breathing exercises. I also find that getting outside and going for a walk can be extremely helpful. However, I think the biggest thing we can be doing is staying safe, and taking this whole thing seriously. Staying home. Wash your hands. Research other ways you can be proactive during this time. Call your loved ones and let them know you love them. If I’ve learned anything from this pandemic it’s that life is so short, and we are not as in control as we think we are. Because of that, it’s imperative that we all do our part to keep ourselves and everyone around us as healthy as possible.
I’m not sure my experience is universal though. I see a lot of news coverage of younger people (younger than millennials, mostly) still going out to the beaches for spring break and out shopping with their friends. I know that young people are just as guilty of this as older people are too, which indicates that there are still large amounts of people not taking it too seriously. But when you have the people who are freaking out and hoarding toilet paper, and then you have the people going on vacation, we should strive to be somewhere in the middle. While I am immune-compromised myself and I have a level of fear, I try to only buy what I need from the store. I donate to organizations I believe in who is giving or receiving help. I’m staying inside as much as possible, and I’m trusting that by doing these things, we will see an end to this one day.
But when you have the people who are freaking out and hoarding toilet paper, and then you have the people going on vacation, we should strive to be somewhere in the middle.
Thank you to the healthcare workers who are working around the clock to save lives. Thank you to the people working in grocery stores helping supply us with nutrients. Thank you to the delivery servicers who are tirelessly coming to our homes so we face less exposure. We see you, and we thank you. All in all, regardless of where you live or how old you are, be safe. Stay healthy. Hopefully, we can make it out of this on the other side to a world filled with much more compassion. I know there are a lot of other immune-compromised young people out there, and if you’re one of them, make sure you are being as proactive as you can be. We’re going to get through this, together.
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